On our first day, we rode out to the desert reserve where we would go "dune bashing", riding over sand dunes in a car that has little air in its tires in order to create friction. On our way there, we rode past a number of mosques and open plots of land which eventually turned from dead grass to sand. As we got farther away from the excitement of the city, we got further into the desert and began seeing people on camels. The most interesting part came next when we saw a large "camel racing" stadium. We finally arrived at the desert reserve and began the dune bashing experience. Later we visited a "camp" where we rode camels and ate an authentic Emirate dinner. There, some of the native women gave us henna tattoos and the men served us coffee and dates.
Later in the evening, we presented to a group of teachers, principals, and other people with careers in education. We shared with them the amazing things that we do in Mrs. Vicki's classroom every day and how all of it is valuable to us. After our presentation, we spoke with some of the educators that were in attendance and learned where they were from. Some of them were from places in Europe, such as London, and some of them were from the United Emirates. It was such a great experience to be able to speak with these people and learn the ways children are educated all over the world! That night we enjoyed another authentic meal only it was traditional Thai food. It wasn't uncommon to have many People from Asia living in the area, as we learned from our tour guide the next day, because the population of Dubai is mostly Asian and only a small percentage of the population is native to the Emirate. This was somewhat a surprise to us, yet it made sense because the Emirate of Dubai is very open to diversity.
On our last day, we toured the city. We saw pieces of "Old Dubai" as well as "New Dubai." We rode on the Palm Islands and beside the Atlantis Hotel. We also stopped at a local Mosque. Our guide explained that even though the Emirate's official religion is Islam, say that they don't discriminate other religions. He told us that there were also a large number of Churches and even some Hindu Temples. We learned that the government actually controls what is taught in the Mosques and that they appoint their Imams, or service leaders. Aside from the government controlling the Islam faith, Churches and Hindu temples are led by their own leaders and the government has no involvement in them. If you want to build a Church, you simply request a land grant from the government. They are also given cemeteries by the government and the right to advertise Church functions, however, it is prohibited by law that they distribute any religious literature, such as a Bible.
Since it was beautiful outside, we got to stop by Jumeirah Beach and we were able to walk down to the water. It was unbelievable to be at the beach in their “winter”, but I guess if the weather was like that during any month of the year, I would be at the beach too. Next, we rode down to the Dubai Creek and took a small boat to the souk and gold market on the other side. Our guide walked us through the whole market and showed us a store with the best souvenirs. There was saffron, frankincense, and other spices displayed outside the small stores. We also saw the World’s Largest Ring and some of the craziest pieces of gold. There were full breastplates of gold and diamond placed in windows of almost all of the gold stores. In their culture, when a woman is married, she wears all of her most expensive pieces of jewelry so that she will have them with her when she leaves. Our guide also shared with us that once a couple is married, the Sheik provides them with a house. It’s not surprising that wherever we went there were pictures of him hanging on the walls and the sides of buildings. Everyone loves him! The country is also cemented to being the best at everything which is why the next place we visited that Day was the Dubai Mall.
It is one of the largest malls in the world and it happens to be connected to the tallest building in the world, the Burj Khalifa. It was amazing to see the whole city from the top of one building. You could see the beautiful lights of the city and by looking down you knew that they were a reminder of how far the Emirate had come in the short time that it had been able to innovate itself. It was so fun to explore a new world far away from home! I will always remember the amazing experience it was.